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Are Real Madrid witnessing the end of Iker Casillas?

Iker Casillas has been the center of controversy for a few years now, and his inconsistent form hasn't helped. Is this the beginning of the end for San Iker?

Denis Doyle

This has not been how I expected Real Madrid fans' relationship with Casillas to evolve. In the halcyon days of 2010, the man was a spider in keepers' gloves, saving anything and everything with ease. But the first domino fell when Mourinho infamously benched him in favor of Adán in 2012.

Iker Casillas and Madridistas' relationship is starting to feel like an actual, romantic relationship. We've been seeing each other for a long time, and the list of great memories is lengthy. But we've been fighting a lot lately, and we don't quite know what we want anymore. Our bossy father insists we stay together, but we've got our eye on the Costa Rican across the park.

It's difficult to pinpoint what causes a keeper's skills to depreciate over to time. Age, injury and loss of athleticism are expected, but those factors aren't as brutal toward keepers as they are outfield players. It's clear Iker isn't the player he was 10, five or even three years ago. Could he use some more help from his back line (particularly on set pieces)? Absolutely. Nowadays I run to the other room and hold my breath until I faint when teams line up for corners against Madrid. But Casillas doesn't attack crosses with the aggression he once did, and most alarmingly, his reaction speed has been a step behind the ball lately.

The root of Casillas' issues struggles could be rooted in his head. After getting caught flat-footed and allowing an easy goal against La Real, he seemed more interested in appealing for a handball than stopping the shot. Maybe it's an isolated incident, but that isn't the sort of attitude we've come to expect from Casillas.

Enter Keylor Navas, an energetic World Cup hero with a million dollar smile. It's easy to see why fans would want him to have a chance. After seeing Holland basically have shooting practice against him in the World Cup, it seemed like Navas was everything Iker was not -- fearlessly aggressive and capable to making acrobatic saves.

This isn't a call to bench Casillas and ship him out. The two-keeper rotation worked magnificently well the last few years, and Navas is of too great quality to rot away on the bench (I may have actually said those exact words of Kaka circa 2011). The squad and fans need something to jolt them out of this slump, and plugging in Navas might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Bernabéu ought to be a terrifying fortress where opposing clubs brace for 90 minutes of hell, not a ground on which fans whistle their own players. If taking a club legend off the pitch is what's required to do restore its roar, then so be it.

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